Update: Twitter officially announced Friday evening that President Donald Trump's account has been permanently suspended. "After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," the social media company stated in a tweet thread. "In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules and cannot use Twitter to incite violence. We will continue to be transparent around our policies and their enforcement." Twitter's decision to remove Trump from its platform comes 48 hours after Trump supports violently stormed the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
This story was originally published on January 7, 2021.
Today, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, shared a post announcing that he had finally made the decision for which so many Facebook employees, social media users, citizens, and lawmakers have long begged: President Donald Trump is now officially banned from the platform indefinitely.
In his announcement, Zuckerberg wrote, "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete." The CEO explained that it was yesterday's events of Trump supporters storming the Capitol that informed the resolution to remove Trump from Facebook and Instagram. "His decision to use his platform to condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters at the Capitol building has rightly disturbed people in the U.S. and around the world," he wrote.
Yesterday, Twitter also took action against Trump, announcing that it had required the removal of three tweets posted by President Trump because they violated the platform's Civic Integrity policy. This decision meant that Trump's account would be locked for 12 hours and if the tweets were not removed, the account would remain locked. A Twitter spokesperson told Refinery29 today, "We're continuing to evaluate the situation in real-time, including examining activity on the ground and statements made off Twitter. We will keep the public informed, including if further escalation in our enforcement approach is necessary."
These responses from Twitter and Facebook were certainly necessary, but sadly, they are also way, way too late. It was Trump and the videos and posts he shared online that galvanized supporters to violently mob the Capitol and blatantly attack democracy yesterday. He has repeatedly used his social media presence to spread disinformation and assert that the election was stolen, which has only spurred his supporters on. Last night, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook employees, upset that the platform they worked on had contributed to this insurrection, spoke out on the company's internal message board, calling for Trump's removal yesterday, but the company silenced them. According to Buzzfeed News, "Administrators froze comments on at least three threads in which employees had discussed removing Trump from the site." Today, though, Zuckerberg did what the employees were demanding, but we're not giving him any credit.
Of course, Trump using social media to promote lies and incite violence was going on long before yesterday's coup and long before Joe Biden won the presidential election in November. It was even happening before Trump was elected president. In Zuckerberg's post about the President's indefinite suspension from Facebook, he wrote, "Over the last several years, we have allowed President Trump to use our platform consistent with our own rules, at times removing content or labeling his posts when they violate our policies." The CEO asserts that Facebook has allowed this because "the public has a right to the broadest possible access to political speech, even controversial speech." The current climate and yesterday's events are what led to the decision to actually ban Trump, according to Zuckerberg. "But the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government," he says.
What must be pointed out, however, is that Facebook continually allowing Donald Trump to use its platform in a reprehensible manner is exactly what caused this "current context." Twitter is similarly ignoring the role it has played in allowing things to get this bad. Yesterday, Twitter stated, "Future violations of the Twitter Rules, including our Civic Integrity or Violent Threats policies, will result in permanent suspension of the @realDonaldTrump account." But, since Trump has already repeatedly violated Twitter Rules — his retweets have been removed in the past and his tweets have been labeled with a fact-checking warning again and again — many are asking: Why can't the platform just go ahead and permanently suspend his account? Or an even better question: Why didn't it suspend him a long time ago?
After the scene at the Capitol yesterday, many of Trump's staunchest supporters — including those who don't lead giant tech companies — are suddenly "waking up" to the fact that Donald Trump is an incompetent white supremacist who has been attacking American democracy. None of these back peddlers should be rewarded or patted on the back for this too little, too late acknowledgment of reality. The truth is, these senators, staffers, and those who work at Twitter and Facebook, didn't just realize now that Trump is a monster — they just realized they could no longer profit off it.